In a kind of dress rehearsal for the playoffs, El Capitan and Steele Canyon gave a dramatic performance Friday night. A late bid to turn the night into a comeback tragedy was undone as the Steele Canyon Cougars grabbed the 15-7 victory. Both teams will now play the waiting game this weekend to see where and who they will face in the first round of the playoffs.
Throughout the game the El Capitan Vaqueros just seemed a bit off. Much of the credit for that imbalance must go to the Steele Canyon defensive line. Vaquero quarterback Wick Hauser was under constant pressure especially from up the middle. The Freshman quarterback has many strengths but his strong point is standing in the pocket and firing. Steele's pressure never allowed for a clean pocket and forced Hauser to roll out play after play. The Cougars took the Vaqueros offense out of its comfort zone and it showed, resulting in three drive stopping interceptions.
Steele Canyon came out early and asserted the run game with Isiah Thompson and Deante McKinney. Now days teams need not only a running back who can run but another who can catch. Thompson took a 68-yard screen from Thomas Fishburne all the way down to the Vaquero five yard line where Mckinney then found the end zone from 5-yards out on the next play.
Perry Steele caught a beautiful roll out 35-yard pass from Thomas Fishburne for a touchdown before halftime to give Steele Canyon the 15-0 lead. It would be all the points the Cougars needed because of the big stops and turnovers by their defense. Even when El Capitan had the ball moving down the field attempting to tie or win on a last second drive, the Cougars found a way. On a must convert 4th down for El Cap Wick Hauser threw a perfect ball passed the markers to Javier Vidalez. Vidalez had a great catch on a equally impressive ball, but Steele Canyon's corner pushed himself under Vidalez not allowing him to get a foot in bounds making the pass incomplete. The Cougars had all the answers, and the W to go with it.
Can the season finale of the 2016 football calender really be upon us? Once the pumpkins go in the garbage, the playoffs are right around the corner. In a great last installment of East County rivalries, the (2-7) Steele Canyon Cougars will embark on the trip Lakeside to take on the (4-5) El Capitan Vaqueros.
El Capitan's Vaqueros dialed up a big win right when they needed it most. A three game losing streak was halted and the Vaqueros looked good doing so. When people start bringing up comparisons to former El Capitan and NFL quarterback Ryan Lindley your doing something right. That pseudo-reincarnation of Lindley is Freshman Wick Hauser. Against his first opponent not named Helix, Valhalla, or Grossmont, Hauser led the Vaqueros to a 24-17 win. With another win Friday El Cap would finish the season .500 in what is a building block for a process on a team full of underclassmen. The process may bear fruit next year or it could be the year after that. But, if it leads to a season like the one many Vaquero fans talk about (2014), it will be worth the growing pains.
It hasn't been a dream season for the Steele Canyon Cougars but they are coming off what could be their best game played. Even in a loss, the Cougars showed their best effort of the season in a close game with league power Valhalla. Steele most likely won't accept the morale victory but a seven point loss to a team who blew out most of the teams they played is respectable. A few plays here and there and Steele could have achieved their biggest upset in years. A Cougar team that is winless so far this year on the road will need to show that potential from last week to grab their only Grossmont Hills League W.
Matchup of the week: Steele Canyon Defense vs. El Capitan passing attack
Steele Canyon's defense came to play last week for the battle for the Jamacha Helmet. Not only did the Cougars defensive unit keep their team in the game the entire night, but Valhalla finished with the least points they have scored all season. 21 points for a potent offense that averages over 34 points per game is something the defensive coordinator can hang his hat on. If the defense can show the same restraint it did a week ago it could limit a red-hot El Cap passing game that torched West Hills last week. Steele would be wise to force the Vaqueros to run the ball and take it out of the peculating hands of standout Freshman QB Wick Hauser who has found success against the defensive backs he's faced since taking over in week 7.